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BUZZFLASH REPORT Thursday January 18, 2001 at 1:36:08 AM


It's all come to down to this for Dubya: forget that Ashcroft yearns for the blissful days of the Confederacy, that he's a ruthless opportunist who has lied to advance his career, that he's opposed on religious grounds to laws that he will have to enforce as Attorney General, that he was a draft dodger.

All of these issues, which would disqualify most mortal men and women for the position of the head of America's Justice Department, are irrelevant to Dubya. Why?

"The senators, if they are objective," Bush says, "they'll take a look at . . . Senator Ashcroft's heart and his record and they'll confirm him." Bush says he "knows" Ashcroft's heart and, therefore, knows he will do a good job as Attorney General. As for Gayle Norton, Bush stands by her because she also has a "heart." Linda Chavez also was A-OK. Bush was also looking forward to casting a "light on her big heart."

According to a January 11, Washington Post article, "The President-elect has peered into more heart cavities than a cardiac surgeon." Why does having a "heart" excuse one from reproachable behavior that would send the junkyard dog Republicans after a Democrat, cat-of-nine-tails in hand? Because, when Bush refers to heart, according to the Post, he is essentially using an Evangelical Christian code word to indicate that his nominees' souls have been saved. In essence, because they have "entrusted" their souls to Jesus, they can do no wrong. The corollary of that notion is that Democrats, Independents and non-Christians can only do wrong, because they are fallen.

If this strikes you as a stretch, think about the political double standard that has emerged in the last 10 years. Just look at the Linda Chavez case. When Zoe Baird employed an illegal alien and didn't pay social security taxes, Republicans, including Linda Chavez, denounced her for "breaking the rule of law." When Linda Chavez did the same - and perhaps far worse because she exploited an illegal alien at slave wages - she was viewed as someone who was performing an act of charity. After all, she had "heart," according to George W. Because she is "saved," she cannot perform an ill-intentioned act. She cannot do evil. That's reserved for the fallen Democrats.

It follows, according to our next president, that because Ashcroft's "heart" is sound (because he has found himself in Jesus), he is a good man: case closed. We have gotten to the point in America that we are close to a theocracy, where only the "true believers" are free of sin, despite the factual evidence that their behavior is damning by any standard. And those that act righteously and honorably, like Al Gore, are damned because they don't have "heart." Of course, the only way, in Bush's Evangelical world, to merit the "heart" exemption is to worship at the feet of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Then you get a free absolution for any reproachable behavior.

What Bush doesn't understand is that having a "heart" is not a pre-qualification for holding powerful governmental positions that affect every American. The last time BuzzFlash checked every American has a heart, not just the Evangelicals.

The only pertinent question is, "Does John Ashcroft have a good heart or a bad heart?" At this point in time, he either has a bad heart represented by a career of arrogant, opportunistic, self-righteous and racist behavior or a change of heart represented by his sudden willingness to abandon all his before-stated principles to serve as Attorney General. If the latter is the case, then Ashcroft is completely lacking in "integrity," another word Bush lavishes upon the Senator who lost to a dead man. Because to have integrity, one must stand by one's principles, and not abandon them for personal political gain.

In the end, Ashcroft's heart is as about as good as another one of Bush's selections, Vice-President elect Dick Cheney. They both have bad hearts, but Ashcroft's heart ailments are the kind that threaten others rather than himself.

Bush is correct about one thing: Ashcroft has "heart," but it's a bad one through and through because it is so hard. "Embracing Jesus" is not a pre-qualification for receiving the keys to America's system of justice - and it shouldn't be. But, in 2001, that has become the case for Dubya - and, shockingly, for us. John Ashcroft should not be permitted to fling open the doors of justice and annoint them with Crisco oil. That would be a grave injustice to us all.